By Kathleen Swift
Jeff Page has been teaching Seneca high school students for 24 years.
“Every time the students are asked to pay tribute to their favorite teacher, he has more tributes than anyone else,” said one parent. “My girls had him for English, and he is the best, and the kids love him!”
Mr. Page says he has a quirky sense of humor, and his class sizes are relatively small.
“The class sizes help me work and interact with the students. I love teaching works such as Frankenstein, Macbeth, and Death of a Salesman. In high school, this literature lets students take powerful lessons and good themes and learn from them. It may help them reconsider some of their life choices. If you can’t help students connect the literature to their lives, what’s the point?
“I teach works of literary merit that are still accessible to students. I show one film a year, but we watch it in 20-minute segments and discuss about the literary elements such as theme, conflict, protagonist, antagonist, etc.”
Mr. Page teaches the students to approach modern media as literature and look for those elements, opening their eyes to film in a whole new way.
Mr. Page recognizes people have short attention spans and breaks his class time into three or four activities.
“One thing I’ve learned,” said Mr. Page, “is that people learn and retain 95 percent of what they teach. I use activities as a way for students to apply their knowledge. Without application, knowledge is worthless. For example, if a student learns about metaphor, they need to be able to construct metaphors to enhance their writing.”
Mr. Page excels at connecting with students and with applying knowledge. Dianne Miller, a former colleague, recalls, “Beneath the cool stare on his solemn countenance lies the dry wit and quick mind of Jeff Page. As his supervising teacher, I mentored Jeff and quickly knew that all I had to do was get out of his way! Later, as his colleague, I enjoyed watching Jeff develop his reputation as the teacher students respect and love. Because students do not want to disappoint him, Jeff causes them to raise their own expectations of themselves. Once students conquer their preconceived trepidations about “Mr. Page,” they realize that if they are willing to work, they will profit immeasurably as students of this exceptional teacher.”
As coach for the Seneca High School Knowledge Bowl team, Mr. Page has more opportunity to make knowledge meaningful for students.
“Knowledge Bowl involves more memory and recall, but students have the opportunity to apply their areas of expertise. We have fun, and I’ve been blessed over the years to have brilliant kids on the team. We’ve had lots of success.”
Mr. Page is a beloved teacher, and he has had his share of mentors along the way, too.
“I had high school teachers who I really liked, and then Dianne Miller was a mentor to me. I saw that the kids love and respected her, and I emulated her and added my own style to my teaching.”
For Mr. Page, the best part of teaching is seeing his students really into thinking and doing.
“I find it rewarding when a student comes to me excited about a high ACT score in English and tells me I had a part in their learning through my classes. I’ve had four students honor me as their most influential teacher when they were nominated to the Joplin Globe Academic Team, an award that is given to 25 area students.”
Writer William Arthur Ward said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Seneca can count Jeff Page as a great teacher.